MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
All indications are that the "militant" Hamas movement has swept the Palestinian elections, winning a majority in the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) and putting themselves in position to form the next government. The current PNA government has resigned. Mahmoud Abbas will remain President, at least for now. The upset was feared, but not expected. The conventional wisdom was that Hamas would gain influence in the government, but would not control it. Pre-Election polls and exit surveys generally showed a slight advantage for Fatah, and indicated that neither side could govern without a coalition. Until a few hours ago, everyone was breathing sighs of relief. Not any more. The current results seem to give Hamas a solid majority. They could form a government without the Fatah. I didn't see that one coming, and I bet nobody else did either.
Yesterday, Wednesday, January 25, was without a doubt a great day for Palestinian democracy. Elections were fairly orderly and relatively fair. One person was killed in a Fatah election-related feud on the day before the election. The Hamas used mosques to get out the vote, the Fatah urged PNA employees to vote for them, but the elections were reasonably fair. The results may be a disaster for peace and for the Palestinian people.
Calling the Hamas "militant" is more than an understatement. It is like saying Stalin was an "outspoken activist." Hamas began about 1985 as a seemingly innocuous charity and religious group that even got the support of the Israeli government. However, when the first Intifada started, Hamas turned militant. They drew up their charter, which explains their views on negotiations and what might be called "the Jewish question." It is hard to imagine a more racist and terrifying document. Some quotes:
True, the Hamas was making pacific noises and ran on a mild platform. Eternal optimists like myself can look for hope in that, but these noises did not result in any fundamental change.
Everyone will now look for whom to blame. Most of the parties can look in the mirror. We all understood that following the death of Yasser Arafat, it would be difficult to keep the Fateh and the PLO alive, because nobody else, including Abbas, has the charisma and prestige of Yasser Arafat. The difficult was made impossible, however, by the actions of Abbas himself, the Fateh, The Palestinians, the USA and the quartet partners, and Israel. Abbas invited the Hamas to participate in the elections. Like US President Lyndon Johnson, he wanted his opponents inside the tent, pissing out. However, Abbas's rivals were not any old political group, but an armed militant organization. He didn't make disarmament a condition of participation, thereby losing his chance to disarm the Hamas peacefully. He didn't make abrogation of their charter a condition of participation. He failed to do anything that would strengthen his own position. Instead of presenting the Israel disengagement as a hopeful fruit of moderate policies and international support, he went along with the Hamas propaganda that the disengagement was won by the "martyrs." Abbas failed to act against corruption and anarchy in the Palestinian government. giving Palestinians the certainty that a vote for Fatah was a vote for more of the same. Fatah failed to unite behind Abbas, instead finding every way possible to undermine his position and generating a good deal of the anarchy that plagues the Palestinian community.
To counter the Fatah, the Palestinians failed to strengthen any of the moderate alternatives, instead throwing their support to the most militant and reactionary group.
The USA supported Abbas openly, a fact that came to light in the last days before the election. In Palestinian society, that was virtually the kiss of death. The US and the quartet failed to prod Abbas and the Fatah to make the necessary reforms, and failed to help them build a government network of social services that could compete with and counter the Hamas. They issued vague and contradictory threats against the Hamas rather that making it clear that the Hamas must lay down its arms, abrogate its charter and accept the principles of the Oslo agreements. It is too late now, for the Palestinian police may now effectively be replaced by the more motivated, and perhaps better armed, Issedin el Qassam brigades.
Israel did everything wrong as well. Contradictory threats were issued on a weekly basis, declarations made, and declarations reversed. If the Palestinian people had understood that a Hamas victory means the end of international aid programs, and the beginning of a new and aggressive Israeli security campaign, perhaps it would have made a difference. On the other hand, the Palestinians might feel it doesn't matter. The occupation in the West Bank is sufficiently miserable for their taste, and they don't see much improvement in their life. Other than the disengagement, Israel didn't offer Abbas anything he could take home to his constituents.
In Israel, the Hamas victory could generate a wellspring of support for the right and extreme right. Israel is having elections too. True, the Likud is forecast to get only 14 out of 120 Knesset mandates according to the latest polls. However that could change rapidly. The growing power of the right outside the Likud has been overlooked. As polls show fairly consistently, The National Union Party and Yisrael Beteinu may garner 11 mandates together, the NRP 3, and ultra orthodox parties another 15, with 22% of voters still undecided. With 42 mandates for the right even before the election of the Hamas, a government of the extreme right is not impossible in Israel. The prospect of such a government facing a Hamas-controlled government is not enticing.
Perhaps the Hamas, like Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, will have an epiphany in office. Perhaps they will see that "from here, it doesn't look the same as it did from there." Nonetheless, it is certain that we are in for "interesting times." At least, it was pleasant to be optimistic for a few days.
Today, coincidentally is United Nations International Holocaust memorial day
Additional Background on International Holocaust Day
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Replies: 4 comments
This week is holocaust Memorial week in Briatin and I can think of no greater way to mark this as seen a victory for the movement against Zionist-American Holocaust against. The Markel Elderman the leader of Warsaw Ghetto a couple of years ago compared the reistance of organisation of Hamas as been similar to the resistance he led in Warsaw. in the 1940s
Posted by Mark @ 01/27/2006 10:32 AM CST
The Holocaust's Day reminds us of a certain reactionary and violent group that, some decades ago, flourishing in a climate of poverty, chaos and depression, climbed to the power using democratic means.
The election of Hamas has in common with the ascension of the Nazis not only all these historical coincidences, but also its virulent anti-Jewish ideology. This dangerous "green wave" could lead to a broad bloody tsunami.
Posted by Mois√©s Storch @ 01/27/2006 04:48 PM CST
To he best case scenario at this point is for Hamas to bring all militant Hamas members into a Palistinean Armed Force under a civilian government. to move all security trained personelle into a Police Force. Replace the Hamas charter with a Palistine constitution. Renounce terrorism against any all nations. That is just to get people to talk to them.
Posted by Micheal Brown @ 01/27/2006 09:52 PM CST
There is a significant danger at present evidence by much of what is being said in the Western media that Hamas can be placated and persuaded to renounce it's fundamental belief's. Much of this is akin to Western responses to the German election of the Nazi's in 1933, when various leaders sought to believe that Hitler and the rest of his entourage could be placated by by ignoring their excesses and acceeding to their initial demands.
Posted by Rod Davies @ 01/30/2006 10:47 AM CST
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